Press Article – Foreign dancers at the Paris Opera

Today, following a press release, the French medias published an article about four foreign dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet. I am very honoured to be one of them. It is never easy to quit one’s hometown to live in a foreign culture. But it is a largely worthy experience from which we learn and grow tremendously as a person. Bravo and congratulations to every world citizens!

Click the link below to reach to one of the online articles:

https://www.francetvinfo.fr/culture/spectacles/danse/dans-le-ballet-de-l-opera-de-paris-des-danseurs-etrangers-commencent-a-se-faire-un-nom_3728793.html

Raymonda at Opera Bastille

After nearly one and a half month of rehearsals, a part of the Paris Opera Ballet moved to Opera Bastille to perform Raymonda. It is one of Marius Petipa’s classical ballets, certainly not as popular as his other Tchaikovsky ballets (I.e. Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker……etc). Glazunov’s music for Raymonda clearly do not meet Tchaikovsky’s level. It’s one of the classics that Nureyev brought to the Paris Opera Ballet when he was the artistic director. 

Like the other Nureyev productions for the Paris Opera, the sets and costumes are absolutely stunning. The details and the designs are just incredible. We could also easily recognize Nureyev’s choreography by its complexity and difficulty, both for the principals’ variations and the corps de ballet parts. 

It is probably the longest performance in which I’ve ever participated, we start at 7:30pm and finish not earlier than 11:00pm! The dancers would all agree that Raymonda is one of the most difficult classical ballets. So long and hard that the last time the Paris Opera programmed it was 11 years ago. 

For me, it had been a long time since I last performed in Bastille. The last time was probably in Nureyev’s Don Quichotte two years ago. 

So tomorrow we will start this long series of 24 performances of Raymonda throughout the entire month of December. However, France is expecting a major national strike starting on 5th December, which will shut down the public transports. We don’t know yet how long this social movement against the new retirement scheme reform will last. It is very likely that some of the performances will be cancelled. 

Otherwise I will be performing every time in Act 2, occasionally in Act 1 and 3, and most of the time with a moustache! 

GEM – Convention de Paris II

Image result for wavestone office

Last Thursday, on 14th November, I was invited to an alumni event organised by my business school, Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM). Yes! I have become an alumnus and am part of the network now, this seems unbelievable to me. The event was held in the business area of Paris, in La Défense, in the head office of Wavestone, a French consulting firm.

Image result for wavestone office

The evening started with a first conference about entrepreneurship given by the founder and CEO of Wavestone, Mr. Pascal Imbert, followed by a first cocktail, then a second conference about Luxury Management given by Agnès Vissoud, Digital Innovation Director at Louis Vuitton and alumnus of GEM, and the event ended by a second cocktail.

After a whole day of dancing and rehearsals at the Paris Opera, the discovery of the modern offices at Wavestone was eye-opening. The two conferences were very insightful. The speakers talked about their path and their career in business which was especially inspiring. They had to go through a lot of hardships and moments of serious doubts, before having the courage to push through and to finally achieve satisfying results.

I used to be, and still am, a very reserved person. During those cocktail sessions, which were meant for us to network, the comfort zone for me was to stay in a corner and observe the scene, maybe while enjoying the “petits fours” (food). This time, I encouraged myself to start a conversation, and the rest of the evening was made even more fruitful (I tried even though I’d never feel like doing it!). What an experience! This environment is very far from the ballet world, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to see it.

The truth of Ballet Discipline

Ballet is known to teach discipline. Some people say that ballet is a lifestyle: Dancers have to constantly stay in shape, the ballet technique is demanding and has different requirements, the quasi-military aspect of certain corps de ballet parts in classical ballets…. It would be easy to understand why ballet requires strong discipline and commitment.

As I move forward in my dancing career, I realise more and more how important the role that discipline plays in our daily routine. So I thought it might be interesting to share some of my views on this topic here.

You’re never going to feel like it!

No, never, you’re never going to feel like it. However, in ballet, what we don’t feel like doing leads us to success, most of the time. You’ll never feel like closing that perfect 5th position at the barre, finishing the exercises properly, lifting that arabesque leg in a fondu, starting from the heel in a dégagé devant, doing those boring pilates core work daily, going to the gym, or getting out of bed at 7am for ballet class when your body is sore and stiff everywhere……. (dancers would move on with this list easily)

Thus, while dancing, self motivation and discipline are required to remind ourselves of all the correct ways of doing every step. For me, the enjoyment of ballet not only comes from the sensation of freedom that dancing offers, but also from the satisfaction that I know I’ve done the steps correctly and that it is nicely academic and clean, and that my muscle memories will not pick up bad habits.

No one is coming! It is up to you~

This is particularly true when we’re no longer a student and in a company. Indeed, no one’s coming to put you out of bed, no one’s coming to ask you to do warm-up, no one’s coming to take care of your body (physiotherapists? yes, but no one’s coming to make appointments with the physios for you!).

Most of the time, we know what to do, we have the solutions to our problems. What stops us from doing what we have to do may be fear or lack of motivation. Subconsciously, we’d wait for someone to come and tell us what to do, we’d wait for the opportunity, the right time to do it…. etc. But no one’s coming, the opportunity might come but we couldn’t seize it properly because we’re not prepared for it.

Have faith~

There’s nevertheless a downside to doing the right thing all the time. If the final outcome is unfavourable, the more effort you put into it, the greater the disappointment and the feeling of defeat. In this case, as I myself have once experienced, it uses up all the willpower and the expected reward didn’t come. This makes us lose faith and may lead to a “burn-out”.

Thus, I think it is especially important to keep believing that every effort counts, no matter how small, that it moves you closer to your goal. And more generally, to have faith in Life~

Discipline in life~

This is how ballet inspires me. I am sure that these ideas would apply in any profession, in every part of life.

Results – Concours de Promotion

The results were announced. I was ranked 4th in my class and since there were two places for promotion this year, I was not promoted this time. Feeling disappointed is inevitable. But there’s another part of the “results”, it’s the fact that I tried my best, worked really hard for it, was satisfied with my performance on stage and that I had no regrets.

The sleepless nights and endless hours of self-reflection gave me new insights into Life. At each obstacle that we meet in life, we might let it make us feel defeated, hopeless and lost. We might find different excuses in order to justify the failure. For example, “I failed because I had no luck this time“… This way of thinking would only make us ignore the real problems and bury our heads into the sand.

Instead, as my grandma has always told me, Everything Happens for a Reason. Let’s have faith that every experience makes us grow and that God (or Life, or whatever we may call it) knows perfectly the plans He has for us. So never stop looking at the bright side of life and never ever forget who we truly are, our life purpose, and what we’re called to do. I believe that every single one of us are called to a Purpose. Always reconnect to our calling and we’d never be lost again. Learn from each failure and get back up stronger each time.

As the saying goes:

Life is not about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you get back up.

Jaime Escalante
This was taken right after the Concours. The sun was out, the blue sky was smiling to me.

Concours de Promotion – videos

Napoli Variation

Romeo and Juliet Variation

I am back! After the Concours…

During the past three weeks, the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet had been busy preparing for their Concours de Promotion 2019 while having the usual rehearsals and performances. I myself was no exception, that’s why I have been off from this blog for quite some time.

The Concours took place last Friday, on 8th November for the boys. So I am back again and have a lot to share about this experience. It was indeed quite an experience! This was my third Concours de Promotion at the Paris Opera, and I had never been so nervous before.

We had a dress rehearsal on 7th November and the Concours was just the day after. The stage fright that I had been feeling since 6th evening was especially intense this time. I really wanted to deliver a good performance on stage. Even though I had learnt a lot of different mental techniques to overcome stress and anxiety, it seemed to be a subconscious thing: even when the conscious mind wasn’t thinking about the Concours, I was still feeling very nervous. There would be pressure and numbness around my head, fast heartbeat and even a slight pain in the chest area.

Why was that? The 3-weeks preparation went really well and everything felt more ready than ever. Yet I had a pressure level similar to that I had before the First Round of Varna International Ballet Competition back in summer 2018, when I had to dance for the first time after 2 weeks of rest, with a half-torn hip flexor muscle, and on an unfamiliar open-air wooden stage.

The two nights before the Concours were among the longest that I had. Sleepless, despite the use of a few strong but natural sleeping pills, I tried every possible method to make myself fall asleep: Guided meditation, hypnosis recordings, relaxing musics, deep breathing exercises, lavender essential oils….. and the list goes on. Fear of failure? Lack of confidence? I tried really hard to figure out the real reason behind these emotions.

Having learnt about the importance of mental strength and mindset in sport performance, I tried to empower myself with positive ideas and inspiring stories, a process from which I learned a lot, not only for the Concours but for Life in general.

The D-Day finally came, after one month of intense work and different sacrifices made. When I stepped on that stage, in front of a full audience and the long table of the judge panel. I felt confident, joyous and honoured to be on that stage. All the nerves and self-imagined-drama seemed worthy, when I felt the fearlessness, determination and freedom for artistic expression, during those 3-minutes of performance.

To be continued in the next post……